Helicopters Magazine

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Missing the Mark

October 18, 2016  By Fred Jones

I hate to disappoint those of you that thought this issue would go away with the Federal Election last year, but its back – and with a vengeance. No one wants a fatigued pilot. No one wants to be a fatigued pilot, but there are some serious problems with Transport Canada’s (TC) latest draft proposal.

You will recall that TC declared that they would be publishing a new regulation in Canada Gazette I in the Spring of 2017, with a formal 60-day comment period. Thereafter, TC would have to conduct a Disposition of Comments (a process where TC must consider all comments received), and incorporate any required changes, before publishing the final version in Canada Gazette II – notionally, in the spring or fall of 2018. The airline community (CAR 705) would have one year to bring themselves into compliance with the new regulations, and everyone else in Part VII (except CAR 702 Operators – who would be excluded) – would have another 36 months to embrace the new regulations, before they became law.

Add it all up, and it will be roughly five years before the new rules come into effect for the Canadian helicopter community however, we have 60 days in spring 2016 to provide our feedback on the regulations. After that, the window of opportunity to provide any formal feedback on the draft regulations closes. The fuse is really quite short.

For two years, TC staff has been claiming that their new draft regulations are “science-based.” This is not true. There are a few anchor points in the fatigue-related science, but the proposed new regulations have strayed well beyond those anchor points, HAC would argue, into science fiction. They have even eliminated some elements of the current regulations that were completely consistent with the fatigue-related science – the zeroing provisions, for example. The reality is, that nothing reduces fatigue like consecutive days free from duty.  The new regulations embrace “Cumulative Duty Hour Limitations” – a concept that was rejected by the Aviation Fatigue Scientist, Dr. Greg Belenky – hired by TC to guide us through this complex area.

The reality is that the applied science is predominantly conducted in an airline environment – very little of it considers fatigue in the context of helicopter operations. In response, the regulator has pronounced “Pilots are pilots – they all get fatigued.” They all get fatigued – but not in the same way, or doing the same things. What’s more, the helicopter industry cannot use scheduled airline-centric tools to mitigate fatigue – they just don’t fit. We largely work in a seasonal environment, and in remote environments where we can’t “pick up another crew, when we stop in Calgary.” In the north, we have long summer days.


Many operators have contacted HAC to ask “How will TC exclude Aerial Work (CAR 702) operations from the application of the new regulations, in an industry where one pilot can mix-and-match between CAR 702 and 703 operations many times in the same day?” The crew member can’t even keep “two sets of books” (one for CAR 702 limits and one for CAR 703 limits), because once they time-ex on a single CAR 703 limit (Duty Day for example) – there’s no going back, for some uncertain period of time.

Based on the incomplete matrix summary of the new Regulations circulated with Transport’s Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS) Survey, the flight time limits could allow an average of four flying hours/day over a 28-day period (the current regulations at their limits allow an average of five) however, pilots will only be allowed to work an average of 7.5 hours/day during that period to reach that limit. For most operators, during the busy summer season, that spells double-crewing an aircraft in the bush.

The FAA and EASA have only published regulations impacting airline operations. They are even charging off ahead of ICAO, who – to its credit – is in the process of developing helicopter-specific regulations, through a Fatigue Management Sub-Group, in consultation with their Member-states. TC apparently couldn’t wait for anyone else on this subject, and may very well find themselves with regulations that are inconsistent with the EASA, the FAA, and the ICAO helicopter-specific SARPs.

The only way that you can possibly hope to influence the course of these regulations is through your association. If you are a helicopter operator, and you are not a member of HAC, you should be.

Fred Jones is the president/CEO of the Helicopter Association of Canada and a regular contributor to Helicopters magazine.


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